Believe it or not, the Saw movies now outnumber the various installments of Star Wars. Saw VII, a.k.a. Saw 3D, had “great reactions” from audiences, according to the film’s director, Kevin Greutert, acting as his own critic since the Saw films aren't screened early for journalists. “We don't want spoilers to get out," he says. "I think it would probably help these films to let the press see them.” Riiight. But love them or hate them, the Saw movies are now an annual Halloween ritual, a genre of torture porn that’s grossed $738 million around the world. This Saw is supposed to be the last, and perhaps the goriest, since it’s in 3-D. We asked Greutert to share some of the film’s secrets with us.
You’ve worked on all the Saw movies and directed the last two. How do you make all that blood?
It’s corn-starch liquid. It can be very expensive. We had to buy it in five-gallon containers. It’s a major chunk of the budget. Real blood clots too fast. Otherwise, I’d get some leftovers from a slaughterhouse.
Are you serious?
There are times when we’ve used real animal intestines to get the look of guts flying onto the floor.
What kinds of animals?
Whatever you could get at the butcher shop. On Saw 1, when [a character] is digging to get the key, those are real pig guts. But not on this film.
What does the blood smell like?
It’s fairly odorless. It tastes sugary if it gets on your mouth. It’s always tense when the blood flies on the set. I got blood on my clothes.
Does the crew get dirty?
The cameramen wear rain ponchos, and we put covers on the cameras. But frankly, blood splashes on the lens all the time, and we have to do a lot of visual cleanup work to hide that. When we have to, we add digital blood. It’s hard to add blood in 2-D. In 3-D, it’s even harder.
How else is this Saw different?
We tried to make this the most crazy, violent Saw of all. There are a lot of deaths. There’s some evisceration, a lot of neck slashing. There are some deaths by penetration.
And by that you mean—
Spikes and other sharp objects. There’s some squashing. There’s some burning. We really tried to do it all!
Do you ever feel like you’re crossing a line, especially since there are people out there really being tortured?
Post 9/11, we’ve seen a lot of torture with our government and governments around the world. But there’s not a deep message about torture in the Saw films.
Most of the actors are unknowns. Did you ever think about casting a Hollywood star?
There had been talk of it, after Saw II was successful. To be honest, I don’t think going with a marquee name would help the films. It would be more challenging to create suspense. If you have a huge actor, the audience knows he won’t die. Or he won’t die until the end. When you have a cast of unknowns, anything goes. You never know who will get struck down next.
Last year’s Saw lost out at the box office to Paranormal Activity. Both movies are going head-to-head again.
Paranormal Activity was a great film. Like the first Saw, it started from a humble place. I think there was some disappointment with some of the recent, earlier Saw films that came out before Saw VI. I really do believe this is the last Saw. There was concern if we kept making the films, it would diminish the series as a whole.
Do people think you’re creepy when they learn about your job?
Absolutely. They think there has to be something wrong with someone who makes films about torture. My mom is supportive of my filmmaking, but she could never see any of the Saw films.
Not even a scene?
No. Not a frame. It’s not her cup of tea.